I just laid Edie down for a nap after her second projectile vomit of the day. We walked in the door, home from a trip to town to check out a weird rash she acquired and, well, I guess she has the pukes now too….
And I guess this is how I start my blog entries these days, the ones that used to begin with a vivid description of the weather, the beauty of the changing leaves, the chill in the air and the crip smell of the season’s first snow have now transformed into potty training sagas, pregnancy heartburn and puke.
Yesterday I opened my inbox to find one of the meanest emails I’ve ever received. It was about my writing, prompted, apparently, after she read this week’s column and decided someone like me was annoying enough to warrant a sit down at the computer and tell me, most pointedly, how I was a joke.
And my own family probably doesn’t even read what I write because I’m a whiny woman who stays pregnant just so I don’t have to get a real job.
Those were the highlights anyway. I particularly liked the part where she accused me of staying pregnant so I don’t have to keep a real job, considering the years I battled with that very thing, as if staying pregnant was an easy task for me to accomplish.
I had just come off of three days of travel that sent me into schools talking to kids about my career path as a writer and musician before I headed back to the hospital to check on my dad, where I left him three days before, in agony and waiting for his pancreas to heal.
My column was late that week because my dad had to take an ambulance three hours from our small town to the big town to be treated for pancreatitis and now, finally, gall bladder surgery. He drove himself to the hospital at 3 am on Tuesday morning because my mom was gone to Minneapolis. At five in the morning I gathered my things, made childcare arrangements for my daughter with my husband, kissed them goodbye and my little sister and I took the three hour drive to be with him while my mom made her way home.
In all the rush, I forgot my computer, so I was late on the deadline for the parenting magazine I edit too. Because I thought I would be able to work on it in the hospital while I waited with dad, even though that would have been impossible. And then, because I didn’t know if dad was going to be OK, I agonized on whether I should make those three school visits that week. Because I didn’t want to let the schools down, and I didn’t want to leave my mom alone and I was worried and I didn’t know what to do or where I should be or if I was doing the right thing by everyone, including this little babe I’m growing in my belly.
I cried. Dad was in severe pain. Agony. I was worried it was going to spiral out of control as we all too recently witnessed with a close family friend.
After a long day of unsuccessful pain management and doctor questions and calls about my publications and travel plans, I trudged across the street to the hotel and put the finishing touches on my publication and tried to write a column.
It was at least 11 pm when I submitted it.
And I’m not giving you the play-by-play so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t write from that place. But what I want to say here is that this is life. And shit happens. Unpredictable shit happens and it happens to all of us and then there we are trying to figure out what we expect of ourselves in those weird, unpredictable moments. And what the world expects of us.
And for me, in my profession, if I want to get paid, the show must go on.
But here’s the thing. We’re all alright here. At the end of this dad will come home. He’ll heal up, I’ll get the work done and the bills paid and tuck us all in at night, thankful for another day and another chance to be alive together in this tricky and sometimes mean old world.
I’m lucky. I have great readers. As a musician and a writer I’ve never really experienced commentary this cruel. But on that particular morning I was feeling vulnerable. I was tired and hormonal, yes, but her words stung because they sounded like the voices sound in my head sometimes.
Do I deserve a writing job when all I can think about right now is how to get my toddler to eat, how I’m going to manage two kids and how am I going to get the bills paid?
Who gives a shit about that? Everyone’s dealing with shit like that. There are, as that very email pointed out, people who are dealing with real problems in this world.
I’m aware of that. Yes. Too aware sometimes. So aware and emotionally affected that I can’t bring myself watch the news most days.
And yes, some days call for me to be more profound.
But not all days. Like most people, some days you just find you got nothin’.
So I sat down that night filled with worry and decided that it would work better if I wrote about the everyday weirdness, thinking at least it might amuse and, maybe, at the very least, make people feel better about themselves and the fact that they don’t have an unidentified rodent in their ceiling. Or maybe they have and they could email me with advice.
This isn’t hard hitting news we’re dealing with folks. But it is real life.
And sometimes real life falls a bit flat.
And because I’ve been sharing my story publicly for years now, I’m really asking for it. For dialogue and engagement. Which I got with this column.
Mostly, it was, “What?”
As in: “What? I don’t get it.”
Or “What are you doing writing in a newspaper?”
But mostly, “What was in your wall?”
In the frantic phase my mind was in that evening, I was trying to capture the calm, cool and collected nature of my husband by depicting a scene that played out before me that very morning. While we laid there in the dark of the early morning making hospital travel and daycare plans, weighing whether or not my dad’s health was in big trouble, we were reminded of the less intense, more annoying, and more trivial worries that occur of life…
Like the strange rodent that somehow got itself stuck inside our wall…
At least that’s what husband thinks is the truth.
The lie? Well, of course, it’s nothing to be worried about Jessie.
Husband’s response makes me question life decisions
I’ve known my husband since I was 11 years old. He’s been my best friend starting sometime around when I was 15 when he was old enough to drive out to the ranch to talk horses with my dad, and teach my little sister to play chess. We went to college together, we got married and we’ve moved six times. We’re about to bring a second child into this world together.
He’s been the person in my life that unclogs the shower drain, keeps my wardrobe in check (whether I appreciate it or not) and the sole reason I’m not watching television on my dorm room-sized TV, movies on VHS and talking on a Zach Morris-era cell phone.
And I make sure to keep his snap-shirt collection stocked.
We’re a good team, he and I, opposites in the ways that are useful — like I’m good at breaking things and he’s good at fixing them.
I didn’t really know it about myself at the time, but I think I stuck with him all those years because, as a musician with unconventional career aspirations and a weird travel schedule, I appreciated a man who was fine with not knowing what state I was in some days. A marriage to someone a little more uptight would have never worked out.
He would have had to endure too many poorly-planned trips to Kansas to stay at a Super 8 and listen to me play music to a crowd of 10 people. And a man who requires a thorough plan to make sure he packed the right loafers would have never made it past South Dakota with me.
Yes, he’s always been the king of handling it, talking it through or at least giving me a logical explanation so I can make my own decision on whether or not to panic.
But this morning I woke to the disturbing sound of something scratching at the outside of our house. Like claws running up and down the siding on the exterior of our bedroom, which I thought was weird, because our bedroom is on the top floor. And what could climb up there?
And then I just thought it was the cat, except it couldn’t be because cats don’t generally climb straight up the side of a house.
Or find themselves inside of a wall. Because, holy s*&% I think there’s something crawling inside our walls!
Which is what I screeched to my sleeping husband in the dark, the sweet sound of morning at the ranch rousing him from his dreams…
“What the hell is that?” I asked, sprawling my round, pregnant body on top of his as if smothering him was going to save me from whatever decided to take up residence in our insulation.
To which my laid-back, no-big-deal, Mr. Fix It, drain-unclogging husband calmly replied,
“Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to lie?”
And just like that the man I’ve known and loved since we were children made me question every choice I’ve made in my life up to this very unsettling point.
I should have married a man with a loafer collection …
Keep On Keep’n On, Jessie. You are a Blessing to many people. I look forward to your stories, your pictures, and your music. I pray for you that all will go well with the delivery of your new baby coming soon. Edie is so precious, and I am so glad you and your husband have a family. I hope your Dad is doing well with his recovery. God’s Blessings to all!
Oh, good grief!! I’d like to tell that person to just go suck a lemon!!! I love your columns and your music. And I respect your hard work being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, musician, and a friend!! You go Girl!!!
Don’t EVER listen to meanspirited people!
You were created by God and he is well pleased with his creation!
Love, love, love your column and your stories about life and your kids and husband and family. Thanks for sharing your life with us! Keep on keeping on!
Great column, I can’t wait to hear about the new baby and Edie….When someone writes an email like that it is not you they are talking to it is really them…you are just an easy target. I for one have never thought of you as whiny or lazy frankly quite the opposite. By the way not having a “conventional job” has pros and cons and it takes a lot of discipline to make it work. I for one applaud you. Keep writing the columns and stories and updates, blessings to your Father Gene.
Jessie, I’m older than dirt, and one thing I’ve learned is some things you just have to file under “shit happens”. There is no explanation, such as that persons comments, matter of fact, that is a great place to file those comments!
Just remember that there are many many thousands of us that look forward to what you write and that mean person is just one of those many many thousands that love what you have to offer. Keep up the great writing and pictures. I can hardly wait to see Edie holding the new baby with adoration in her beautiful eyes.
I love what you write and how your write. You have a gift. That critical individual’s comments say more about her than you.
You know what? Everyday life is what most of us live. My days of marriage and babies and toddlers and dealing with the attendant problems are gone, but the memories are not. Some people are just grumps or mean, unhappy in their lives, and it’s so easy to try to tear someone down over the Internet because you’re essentially anonymous.
I smile whenever I see your “Meanwhile…” post show up in my email. You have made me smile, cry and laugh out loud, sometimes all in the same column. Thanks for keeping it real for all of us. You’re awesome! Don’t let that grinch steal your passion for what you do!
I enjoy reading your thoughts & ideas life is real and isn’t always exciting in “Hollywood Style” but it is your life and I’m happy you share it. Thank you.
Have you thought of getting a crap filter for your inbox?
Your writing is very valued. Thank you.
Enjoy your writings! I love it that you don’t candy coat it, life isn’t candy coated! I love that you don’t make it more than it is! You are so relatable to many of us that have gone through or going through the same things! Nice to know we are not alone or just plain crazy!! Keep it up!! If negative Nancy doesn’t like it she doesn’t have to read it!! Prayers to you and all your family!
I’m not sure what the crazy person that emailed you had a problem about. This just made me laugh out loud and appreciate that I’m not the only one that would panic about something similar!! I love your articles. They make me laugh and tear up all in the matter of a few words. I have a few of your blog entries that I save in my inbox to read every so often. The ones that truly make me think about life. You seem to publish them on the days that I need it the most. So thank you for your posts and your columns and please keep doing what you’re doing!! I hope you realize that you have more fans than non-fans!!
Let the shit thrown your way roll into the septic tank where it belongs. Hope all is well with Gene. You are a delightful writer and artist.
Do not pay attention.
The real life is not a movie….and everyone life it’s novel.
Keep writing your stories .
You are SPECIAL .
Xox Love ,J from Maryland 😉
Keep on writing your wonderful columns and blogs and don’t pay attention to hate mongers.I LOVE reading them. I also love to see the pictures of you and your family and the land. It brings back wonderful memories of my life there 25 years ago. I pray your father returns to good health and you have a healthy baby.
I love reading your columns because you write about real life. We all struggle with the same things Some days are better than others some not so much but when you write about what everyone is going through it makes us feel like we can get through whatever it is that is happening in our lives.
I enjoy reading your columns. They are just a very candid portrayal of your everyday life. You make other people realize that they aren’t the only ones with problems. I frankly don’t see where you get all of the time to write and do all of the stuff you do.
I write letters to the editor in various daily newspapers in ND on sort of a monthly basis. Mine are mainly about political issues. My letters are very politically incorrect. I know what it is like to get very dirty, nasty letters………usually unsigned. But those that write those kind of messages are confessing their own sins.
I enjoy hearing about Edie. Keep up the good work
My husband and I are both from North Dakota and now live in Tennessee and I drive him crazy reading him stories about the North Dakota baby and home. You always make my day. Keep it up and ignore haters.
I’m so sorry about that mean woman.
I hope your dad has a smooth recovery.
And I hope nothing was in the wall!
I have been reading your columns for years and enjoy your writing. Thanks for the memories you trigger and I look forward to more.
You are a beautiful writer and your columns are a joy and blessing to read. You have such a love for family, nature, your state and ranch life – and you treat your readers into a look at all of that. Keep on. We’ll keep reading.
I love your columns and photos! Keep up your great writing, and I hope the negative words you received will be buried in your mind by all the loving comments you so deserve and have received!
I look forward to your columns, I enjoy them. You write about real life. I can’t wait to hear about new addition. Hope your dad and daughter are feeling better. Hope that unhappy lady that wrote those comments feels better. Remember, people who trash other people are doing so to make themselves feel better, her self esteem must be in the toilet. Don’t change a thing!
I agree . . . don’t listen to mean spirited people. Your columns have made me laugh and cry. You have a way of writing that gets what life is all about . . . the ups and downs of family, friends and life in general. Keep up the good work.
Jessie – like many others have written, I absolutely love and look forward to each and every post and picture you share with us. I’m a mom, a wife, and a very proud gramma that appreciates your no nonsense honesty, your daily challenges as a wife, a working mommy, as well as a devoted daughter, aunt, sister, friend, artist, (I’m sure I could go on and on). Jessie, I feel sad that anyone could be so negative towards you, but if you ever begin reading a response like that again, please delete it immediately. That person wanted to hurt you, for whatever reason, which wasn’t warranted. You are such a breath of fresh air in this crazy world we live in so “keep doin’ what yer doin’…” I hope your dad is feeling better and sweet Edie is over her flu bug, but don’t forget to take care of you! Blessings, Tami
Back somewhere around 1998 I was catapulted into a “job” (Read as: volunteered to volunteer) as a moderator for a private, predominantly male weightlifting message board. The job was part glorified babysitting and part writing instructional, encouraging, rousing stuff about lifting weights. At that point I had seventeen years of lifting experience under my belt, which more than qualified me as knowing my stuff. But I was still a lone woman in a men’s world and I had some trepidation about that, about the ability of the reading audience to accept my advice and presence based on my gender. (It wasn’t like today, where you often find women in the personal trainer/coaching role) I shared this position with two other men who had very different writing/coaching styles. One approached things from a very scientific view and the other … let’s just call him bombastic. The guys loved them both and often worshiped at the alter of what one or the other wrote, crediting them for every little success under the iron. Me? NOBODY noticed what I said. Ever. Oh, I’d get the occasional comment from someone who agreed with something I wrote, but nobody ever credited me with rocking their world. Still, I kept at it, kept trying to help, kept trying to encourage, kept trying to steer the ship in the right direction. And I couldn’t have been all that bad because I actually ended up getting published in multiple weightlifting venues. But the warm fuzzy feeling about writing continued to elude me. For almost two decades it didn’t feel like I was making a difference at all. One day I happened to grumble to Mr. Science that wondered why I even bothered, and he came back with the most wonderful, albeit logical response. He said, “You’ll probably never know all the guys you’ve ever helped. They’ll read your work, go off and apply it and quietly succeed.” About two decades later I did hear from some of those guys. One by one the messages and Emails trickled in, thanking me for getting them to rethink their approach and leading them to success. *Sigh* I’d made a quiet difference.
The moral of my long story? You’ll never know how many people will read your words or listen to your music and for that moment in time your “work” makes a difference. A moment of happiness for some, a moment of gratefulness or nostalgia for others … you’ll probably never know. But I can promise you this: as sure as the sun rises, it happens. And to them, it matters.
I hope your dad and daughter are both feeling much better soon. Hang in there! 🙂
Oh Jessie, you bring such levity to our world. The world that feels overwhelming with the pukes, and the snow, and the rodent in the ceiling. Your words are a welcome respite for a few minutes each week from all of the shit we are all facing. A reminder that we are not alone. And we to all have the “voices” and some days its easier to ignore them and remind ourselves we are doing a good job, and other times its a battle to not just stay in bed and cry. Keep fighting this good fight and sharing your humor, and truth!
I love your writing and look forward to your columns. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t read them. Simple as that. Unfortunately, there are ugly people out there who feel the need to share their ugly. Jealousy maybe? Doesn’t matter. Keep on doing what you do so well. Thankfully, there’s more beauty out there than ugly.
We, Wally and Sue, that you met at the Rostered Leaders Conference in Medora, agree with all the kind comments. We look forward to every column, share laughs and cries, and watch Edie grow with delight. We want to know about Edie, the new baby, and all your family, about this beautiful, demanding countryside, and the mundane things of everyday life. Your music helps the miles fly when we travel and your book brings peace at the end of long days. Our only comment about that hate filled person is, “Be glad you don’t live in that skin. It must be awful to be so ugly inside.”
I think I’ve seen a photo like the one of your horse with his head up against the post … “I love this post” I believe was the caption.
Some people are just sad and mean spirited. Such people suck the energy out of us. In truth they are trolls.
You know in your heart that you are none of the things she said.
Next time you start to read something like that … don’t. Not worth the time.
Consider yourself hugged hon.
Jessie – I love reading your columns! The way you write about everything snags the heart. Every word is written with love … Especially the comment “I should have married a man with a loafer collection”. You made me smile! We all know you wouldn’t trade him for all the loafers in the world. And I especially like that you come from ND!
I absolutely love your writing. Clearly that woman has some bad days going for her and she took it out on you. Hard to not take it personally but know what she said is not true at all.
Wow I wonder if the unwanted troll ever reads the comments……if so “its” probably hopping about wildly on one foot screaming while pulling out “its” hair. Have a nice day troll 🙂
Youre the best Jess!!!
Wow, that gal must have needed to lash out somewhere that would not come back to her. Poor thing sounds like she is in a bad place. That still is no excuse for taking it out on you. You are so brave to share your story with us, please know there are many out here who appreciate your insights into keeping on.
I am so invested in your story that it took my breath away when you shared that Edie spent Halloween with cousins. I was so afraid something happened to you and baby I was almost in tears at my desk. I am so glad your dad is recovering and you are still patiently waiting for baby!
Sorry some miserable person had to be nasty to you… I enjoy your writing very much and the photos …. Those type of folks empower us to do better …They that criticize are only trying to make themselves feel better … We know their life sucks .. You’re the best !
I love your writing style “voice”, as much as I do your singing voice. It is authentic, and ‘genuine’ is a hard quality for any writer to fake —or achieve — much less do so with humor. And if anyone ever lived/worked/loved in a ranch life, they KNOW that your stories reflect that reality. (Damn bats, anyhow!).
Please keep true to your genuine self; it is much beloved by your readership. There are sociopathic people, and online media allows them to come slithering out. Chalk it up to that, please.
Looking forward to your next installment. Blessings on you and yours.
My first time reading your post, its cool!
Jessie, I’ve been reading your blog faithfully for 7 years now. Freshman year of college I was 1000 miles away from home in Oklahoma. I was feeling horrifically homesick and knew knoephla soup was the cure. Your recipe (https://veederranch.com/tag/knoephla-soup/) was one of the first that popped up on google and it was a balm to my heart to read about the ranch, your husband, and your beautiful home so close to my home in Western ND. I don’t think I ever made the soup, but I spent hours reading your blog and I’ve been following your journey ever since. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support you never even knew you were giving me. Thank you for bringing me home to the snow, and the sun, and the big lake, and the sagebrush. You have no idea how much the words you put out into the world helped me.
I hope with time you can let the e-mail and those unkind words roll off your back. It’s hard, I know, especially when you feel there may be a kernel of truth there, especially when your life has been in upheaval. But those words don’t mean anything at all about you, they reflect the inner state of the person who wrote them. Honestly, my heart breaks for whatever pain she must have endured in her life. I hope that she finds peace.
I look forward to reading about your new little one in a couple months, and seeing pictures of the looming winter snow. I hope your father heals quickly and the stomach flu doesn’t touch your house again for many years!
Thank you for always keeping me connected to my home and my roots.
I am just catching up with you now Jessie, and was saddened to see someone had attacked you in email, and that your father was ill. Keep the faith, keep being the person you are. I got one of those nasty comments once myself. Just let them roll.